Let's take a close look at the best cloth backups for elimination communication. We will cover diaper backups (or nappies, as some countries call them), as well as cloth training pants. Cloth diapering and EC go hand-in-hand. Even if you plan to practice elimination communication full time, day and night, that doesn't mean your baby needs to literally "go diaper-free".
In our society of carpets, couches, and cars, it is perfectly acceptable to use cloth diapers as backup for elimination communication.
But why are we only going to discuss cloth backups? It's not that it's impossible to practice elimination communication with disposable diapers as backup. I even used a few disposables on my son, like that time he got E. Coli in India. Let's look at the benefits of using cloth back-ups.
Benefits of Cloth Elimination Communication Backup:
- Cloth diapers or training pants allow your baby to feel wet and retain awareness of peeing. There's no magical chemical gel to lock away the wetness.
- Cloth diapering encourages you to change the diaper backup frequently, which helps your baby stay accustomed to the feeling of being clean and dry.
- With cloth back-up it is easier to keep using the same clean diaper or training pants over and over again, as long as your series of catches continues.
- Cloth diapers help your baby to avoid toxic chemicals that are found in some disposable diapers.
- There are also environmental benefits to choosing cloth backup over disposable diapers.
- It is estimated that disposable diapers take 250-500 years to decompose. This means that every single disposable diaper that has been discarded, over the past 70 years during which disposables have been on the market, is still sitting around waiting to decompose.
- If you want to decrease the environmental footprint over the life cycle of your cloth diapers, you can choose unbleached organic fabrics; use clean electricity for washing; wash full loads; sun dry your diapers; use a laundry detergent with a low environmental impact; and use your cloth diapers for multiple babies. Buying used diapers or sewing your own are also great options.
Permission to Use Backup While Practicing EC
It's still elimination communication, even if you are using diapers!
As a first time mom, I was so excited to practice elimination communication. I read Diaper Free: The Gentle Wisdom of Natural Infant Hygiene by Ingrid Bauer and pictured my baby being clad in just a diaper belt and prefold for most of the day. But once my son was born, I realized that I was scared of explosive newborn poop. I was even scared of baby boy pee, which was capable of arching across the room. I guess that most of us in Western societies share those fears. We like to keep poop and pee hidden away inside a diaper.
If you take the leap and start practicing elimination communication, you will soon become quite familiar with baby poop and pee. And you will also find that it is less messy to catch those bodily wastes in a potty, rather than to wipe them off a baby's bottom. But if you need the security of diapers while easing into elimination communication, that's okay!
You have permission to use diapers as backup for elimination communication. Just make sure to choose diapers that will aid in the process, rather than ones that are so cumbersome they will get in the way of offering pottytunities.
Let's look briefly at the benefits versus the drawbacks of using some sort of backup while practicing elimination communication.
Benefits of using EC backup:
- Misses are less stressful;
- Keeps your home cleaner;
- Helpful while away from home, especially if you are in the car and unable to offer a pottytunity when your baby signals;
- Reassuring when someone who may not be aware of your baby's signals is holding your baby.
Drawbacks of using EC backup:
- Makes you less aware of your baby's signals and eliminations;
- Time consuming hassle to keep removing and replacing backup.
When selecting EC backup, keep these two aspects in mind: 1) The easier it is to remove and replace the backup, the more frequently you will offer pottytunities. 2) The less waterproof the backup, the more aware you will be.
Now let's take a closer look at which types of cloth diapers are practical during each stage of elimination communication.
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Best Cloth Diapers for EC with a Newborn
Considerations when selecting EC backup for a newborn:
- While learning your baby's signals and natural timing, choose backup that allows you to easily tell when it has become wet.
- Choose diapers that are easy to remove quickly. Newborns pee and poop very frequently and may signal right when they need to eliminate.
- If you are not catching all of the watery poops, gussets can help contain the poop.
- Your baby can lay on a wool puddle pad either while naked or while wearing a cloth diaper without a cover. Enjoy this phase before mobility!
Cloth diaper stash for EC with a newborn:
- 36-48 absorbent cloth diapers.
- I often hear that newborns use about 12 diapers per 24 hours. When my son was less than 3 months old he would go through about 20 cloth diapers per day, and that was along with catches in the potty! During the newborn phase, EC'ing families may actually use more diapers than non-EC'ing families, since we strive to change the diaper as soon as it is wet.
- An alternative to purchasing cloth diapers is to use a cloth diaper service, which provides and washes cloth prefold diapers. You will still need your own stash of waterproof diaper covers.
- 4-6 waterproof diaper covers.
- If you are using wool covers, they can be reused after a pee miss. If the cover feels wet, you can hang it to dry and reuse it later. When the cover gets poop on it or stops containing liquid, it's time to wash and lanolize it. Start with a minimum of 4 wool covers.
- If you are using PUL covers with prefolds, they can be wiped clean after a pee miss. Start with a minimum of 6 PUL covers.
- Diaper belts and prefolds can be used from birth through toddlerhood.
- Most newborn sized fitted diapers are intended for 0-3 months.
Newborn Backup: Diaper Belt with Cloth Prefold
If you are fine allowing your baby to be naked during diaper-free observation time, you can prepare an area by laying down a wool puddle pad; covering it with an absorbent blanket; and placing a cloth prefold right where your baby's bottom will rest.
If you are not okay with allowing your baby to be completely bare-bottomed, you can add a prefold cloth diaper between your baby's legs and secure it in place with a diaper belt. See our cute baby doll demonstration above.
Prefold cloth diapers are absorbent rectangular diapers with more layers in the center and fewer layers on the sides. Prefolds are not waterproof.
Benefits of using a diaper belt and prefold as EC backup:
- Prevents baby boy pee from spraying across the room;
- Can tell when wet for learning signals and natural timing;
- Quick and easy to change.
Cons of using a diaper belt and prefold as EC backup:
- Doesn't stay in place as well as other options, such as fitted cloth diapers;
- A poop explosion may escape out of the sides of the prefold.
Choose the size of prefold diapers depending upon how you plan to use them. If the prefolds will only be worn with a diaper belt, its nice to have a large size, so more of the prefold sticks out above the belt. If your baby will also wear the prefolds under a waterproof diaper cover, choose just the right size, so the diaper will be trimmer. The Green Mountain Diapers website is a wonderful source for high quality Cloth-eez prefolds. I like the unbleached organic cotton version.
For a complete outfit, EC Wear offers coordinating L'il Baby Chaps and rECtangles, to wear along with a diaper belt and cloth prefold diaper.
For times when you need a waterproof backup, you can fold a prefold in thirds (trifold or pad fold) and lay it inside a waterproof cover. One option is pairing the Babee Greens newborn wool diaper cover with a trifolded preemie or newborn Cloth-eez prefold.
Newborn Backup: Fitted Cloth Diapers
Fitted cloth diapers are another option when practicing elimination communication with a newborn. They can be worn at home without a cover, so you can see right away when they are wet. You can add a waterproof diaper cover over the fitted diaper for leaving the house.
Fitted cloth diapers are absorbent cloth diapers that are shaped like disposable diapers. They secure in place with snaps, hook and loop, or a Boingo or Snappi fastener. Fitted diapers are not waterproof.
Pros of using fitted cloth diapers as EC backup:
- Gussets contain liquid newborn poop (but only if they fit tightly enough around the legs);
- When fitted diapers are worn without a cover, you can tell right away when they are wet;
- More absorbent than training pants and available in smaller sizes.
Cons of using fitted cloth diapers as EC backup:
- Fitted diapers are one of the more expensive styles of cloth diapers.
- Newborn size fitted diapers will only fit for a short time (0-3M).
- They take a long time to dry after washing.
- If you are using fitted diapers with a cover it is a two step process to first secure the fitted diaper and then the cover.
Fitted diapers with hook and loop (Aplix or Velcro) closures are easier to remove and replace than ones with snaps, but they are harder to find. Loveybums offers organic cotton fitted diapers with Aplix.
Cloth-eez Workhorse Fitted Diapers are a more economical option. A snap version is available on Amazon, but you can also order an organic cotton version with no closure directly from Green Mountain Diapers.
If you are going to use wool diaper covers over fitted diapers during the newborn stage, the wrap style covers are easier to put on your baby than the pull-on soaker style. Loveybums offers wool wrap diaper covers with Aplix closure. You can also find wool diaper covers with hook and loop closure from Organic Caboose. The Babee Greens wool diaper cover with side snaps was one of my favorites during the newborn stage.
In my blog post on Elimination Communication with a Newborn from Birth, I talked in depth about the types of newborn cloth diapers we used with my daughter and which ones worked the best for us. You can see a demonstration of newborn cloth diaper backups in my video on Newborn Elimination Communication Supplies:
Best Cloth Diapers for EC with a Crawling Baby
Considerations when selecting EC backup for a crawling baby:
- Crawling babies don't like to stay still for diaper changes.
- Waterproof backup can be helpful during this stage. It's hard to always notice your baby's signals and offer the potty when your baby keeps crawling away from you.
- Once your baby is eating solid foods, it is likely that he will poop less frequently. Poop will also be less watery. It is common to catch most of the poops in the potty during this stage.
Cloth diaper stash for EC with a crawling baby:
- 24-36 absorbent cloth diapers.
- 4-6 waterproof diaper covers.
- This category of EC backup is intended for any time after the newborn phase, so 3-12M.
- These types of cloth EC backup work especially well from the crawling stage, until walking begins.
Crawling Baby Backup: Flaparaps
Flaparaps are a drop-flap diapering system developed by Born Ready Jenn, specifically to meet the needs of EC'ing families. The front of the diaper is attached to the elastic waistband, while the back of the diaper tucks under the elastic waistband.
When it is time to offer a pottytunity, you can simply pull the flap down and hold it off to the side. After the pottytunity, tuck the flap back under the waistband. When there is a miss, you can easily remove the inner wet pad and replace it with a dry one, while the Flaparap shell stays securely attached to your baby's waist. Flaparaps are made in the U.K..
Flaparaps are drop-flap diapers designed specifically as EC backup. Flaparaps consist of an inner absorbent pad and outer waterproof shell.
Pros of using Flaparaps as EC backup:
- Flaparaps are MADE for babies doing elimination communication;
- The convenient design will encourage you to offer frequent pottytunities;
- You can change the pad while a mobile baby is crawling or standing;
- Trim fit allows your baby a full range of movement;
- One-size-fits-all (since they come with two sizes of belts), so you can use them throughout your baby's EC journey;
- Convenient for nighttime EC for multiple reasons: you can change the pad without waking your baby, there is no Velcro or snaps to make loud noise; and the Flaparap stays attached to your baby, so you won't lose it in the darkness.
- The Flaparap pads dry quickly after washing.
Cons of using Flaparaps as EC backup:
- Since the outer shells are waterproof, you may not be able to tell immediately when your baby has a miss.
- The pad should be changed right away after a miss, so the moisture does not start to wick onto the leg bands. This is not the best backup option for times when you know you will not be able to offer the potty or change the backup frequently.
- They are not the best option for containing runny newborn poop. The poop tends to get on the Flaparap shell so that it needs to be washed.
- The pads do not attach to the shell, so I usually need to set the pad down while offering a pottytunity.
I have been using Flaparaps with my second baby since she was 3-months-old, and I love them! I just wish there was a way to secure the pad in the shell, so it would stay in place while offering a pottytunity. I use Flaparaps half of the time and other cloth backups the other half of the time.
I was planning to get only wool Flaparap shells, but they were unavailable when I placed my order. Luckily, I was able to buy a used wool Flaparap from another mama. Since I only have one, I use the wool Flaparap shell at night. I like that it is breathable in our hot and humid weather. I was able to snag the organic cotton pads before they ran out of stock.
Flaparaps are no longer available to purchase as of March 12, 2019. Jenn is working on a Flaparaps sewing pattern. Visit the Born Ready website to sign up to be notified when the pattern is ready.
Crawling Baby Backup: gDiapers gPants
gDiapers or gNappies are the type of cloth diaper backup that we used most of the time for our son. gDiapers consist of an outer cotton gPants; a waterproof nylon pouch; and the type of absorbent insert of your choice. gDiapers can be used with cloth inserts, cloth prefolds, or disposable inserts (which can be composted if only peed on, or flushed down the toilet).
gDiapers are considered hybrid cloth diapers, since the gPants can be used with either cloth or disposable inserts.
Pros of using gDiapers as EC backup:
- The Velcro tabs make gDiapers easy to remove and replace, especially while holding your baby in one arm.
- You can use various absorbent options inside the gPants (cloth inserts, prefolds, biodegradable/flushable inserts).
- The pouch holds the insert in place when you remove the diaper. This is especially helpful when removing the diaper in a public bathroom stall, so the insert doesn't fall on the floor.
- The outer cotton gPant is comfortable against your skin while holding your baby.
- The waterproof nylon pouch in the gDiapers makes them more breathable than PUL diaper covers.
- They are cute! I liked to let my son show off his gDiapers, instead of covering them with clothing.
Cons of using gDiapers as EC backup:
- Watery newborn poop tends to get on the nylon waterproof pouch, so that it needs to be washed. gDiapers does make a newborn size diaper, so those probably work better during the newborn stage than the size small gDiapers that I used.
- Very bulky between the legs if you use cloth prefolds inside.
- Need to set the diaper down somewhere while offering the potty, as opposed to a drop-flap design.
- Since they are waterproof, you won't be as aware when your baby eliminates.
When my son (my first baby) was born, I started with 7 small gPants (8-14lbs), which was more than enough. I also had an extra set of 6 snap-in waterproof pouches. Once he outgrew size small, I bought 4 medium gPants (13-28 lbs), with an extra set of 6 snap-in pouches. We never needed to use size large gPants.
At my husband's insistence, we hired a cloth diaper service which provided and washed cloth prefolds. The cloth prefolds made the diapers bulky, but were very absorbent.
For the most part, I loved using gDiapers, especially once we were catching all of the poops in the toilet. The Small gPants just weren't great for the newborn watery poop phase, especially before I started offering the potty.
With my daughter I am using medium gPants with small Cloth-eez prefolds. If you use Cloth-eez prefolds from Green Mountain Diapers, preemie size (purple edge) prefolds fit in newborn gPants, newborn size (orange edge) prefolds fit in small gPants, and small size (yellow edge) prefolds fit in medium gPants.
If you want to use gDiapers with something thinner than prefolds, you could use cloth inserts. I have not tried the gDiapers brand of cloth inserts, since they are made with polyester (along with hemp/cotton). There are quite a few options of cloth diaper inserts available on Amazon these days. A 13" x 5" organic cotton/hemp insert would probably work. Or you could sew your own inserts out of your favorite fabric.
gDiapers offers a Newborn Bundle which comes with 12 newborn gPants; 6 small gPants; 2 packages of disposable inserts; and a swish stick. You can also order a 6-pack of newborn gPants.
You can see a demonstration of Flaparaps and gDiapers in our video of Easy Cloth Diapers for Elimination Communication:
Crawling Baby Backup: Loveybums-in-Ones
When I was looking for a cloth diaper backup for my son, I was hoping to find something that functioned like gDiapers but was all-natural. I wasn't able to find something that fit that description at the time, but I did before my daughter was born. Loveybums-in-Ones (LIO's) consist of a wool wrap cover and a snap-in absorbent cloth diaper. Be sure to select a particular size on the LIO's listing to find the version with Aplix closure. You can order extra snap-in diapers and the cover portion of the LIO's can also be used over fitted diapers.
Loveybums-in-Ones should technically be called Loveybums-in-Twos, since they are two-piece cloth diapers that consist of a waterproof cover and snap-in insert.
Pros of using Loveybums-in-Ones as EC backup:
- LIO's would be awesome for nighttime EC! Since the cover and absorbent diaper stay attached, you don't have to worry about misplacing an insert in the dark.
- They would also be great for EC away from home, especially in situations where you know you won't be able to change the backup immediately, like long car rides. If you remove the LIO's in a public bathroom stall, you don't have to worry about the insert falling on the floor.
Cons of using Loveybums-in-Ones as EC backup:
- LIO's would be bulkier than Flaparaps
- They are an expensive option. You can look for used LIO's in the Loveybums B/S/T group.
Update 10/25/18: I was so excited about the design of the Loveybums-in-Ones and thought they would be perfect to use as EC backup. I tried the NB/Small LIO's on my daughter, but the leg openings never fit snuggly enough to contain pee. I was able to use the wool cover portion over fitted diapers instead of the snap-in diapers. I have heard good things about Loveybums wool wrap covers, but the snap-in diaper option didn't work out. So sad...
Best Cloth Training Pants for EC with a Toddler
Considerations when selecting EC backup for a toddler:
- Toddlers want to be independent and mimic adults.
- There is no need for side snaps or Velcro if you are catching all of the poops in the potty.
Cloth training pants stash for EC with a toddler:
- 6-12 pairs of trainers, depending upon typical number of misses per day and how often you wash them.
- This category of EC backup works well from the time your child is walking, so around 12M.
- Once your toddler is an EC graduate, there will be no more need for training pants.
Cloth training pants look like underwear, but provide some absorbency in the wet zone. Cloth trainers can be pulled on and pushed off.
Pros of using cloth training pants as EC backup:
- Thin training pants allow for more freedom of movement than bulky diapers.
- Once your child can stand and walk, they can help pull up and push down their training pants.
- Your toddler can actively participate in changing into a clean dry pair after a miss.
- Training pants allow your child to stay standing up during the changing process.
- Training pants look and feel more like underwear than diapers.
- Training pants provide peace of mind when there are misses, in contrast to puddles on the floor or couch, which can cause you frustration.
- You can tell right away when non-waterproof training pants are wet.
Cons of using cloth training pants as EC backup:
- Your toddler may treat the training pants as a diaper and eliminate in the training pants instead of the potty.
- Your toddler would be more aware of peeing if wearing underwear or going commando than when wearing training pants.
- Clothing and furniture can still get wet while wearing non-waterproof training pants.
I personally found that training pants helped take away the stress and allowed me to practice EC in a more relaxed manner.
If you are interested in using training pants for your toddler or baby, please read our massive Cloth Training Pants Comparison Review which includes photos and videos.
Toddler Backup: Under the Nile Organic Cotton Training Pants
Starting from size 12-24 months.
Pros of Under the Nile Organic Cotton Training Pants:
- They are made from organic cotton.
- They absorb a pee miss well.
Cons of Under the Nile Organic Cotton Training Pants:
- I wish they started from smaller sizes.
- The leg holes are not very tight fitting.
Toddler Backup: Tiny Trainers
Starting from size 6-12M.
Pros of Tiny Trainers:
- They start from very small sizes.
- They absorb a pee miss very well.
- They come in white and other gender-neutral solid colors.
Cons of Tiny Trainers:
- There is no organic version.
- The leg holes are very tight fitting and do not stretch.
For a waterproof option, you can layer TinyUps pull-on cloth covers over Tiny Trainers.
Here is our video series on cloth training pants. We cover when to use cloth training pants and show comparisons of multiple brands of training underwear.
Wool Soakers or Shorties with Training Pants
Non-waterproof cloth training pants have the benefit of allowing you to see right away when they are wet. But on the flip side, that means that any clothing worn over the training pants will get wet when there is a miss. The solution? When you leave the house, have your toddler wear a wool soaker, shorties, longies, or skirtie over the cloth training pants.
Wool is amazing for elimination communication! The lanolin in wool makes it water repellent, but wool can also absorb excess liquid. Lanolin neutralizes urine so you don't need to wash a pair of wool shorties each time there is a pee miss. If the wool feels dry, keep on using it. If the wool feels damp, you can hang it to air dry and reuse it again later. Once you notice the wool is no longer containing liquid, it's time to wash and lanolize it again.
Wool is naturally breathable, so it's good not only in cold weather, but also in hot weather.
When you buy wool bottoms its like you are getting two in one: a waterproof cover and a piece of clothing. And interlock wool can be super cute!
For the newborn stage, I recommended a wrap style wool cover. But once your little one is wearing training pants, it's perfect to push down the training pants and a wool soaker or shorties all in one motion.
I love the wool interlock shorties I bought for my son from Little Green Honu. For my baby girl I bought interlock wool bubble shorts from Truly Charis and Rainy Day Woolies. You could also use a knitted version, like the Disana Knitted Wool Cover.
Here's our video explaining about using wool diaper covers from the newborn stage through potty training:
Creating a Cloth Diaper Stash for Elimination Communication
My values when creating a cloth diaper stash for EC backup include:
- Convenience and ease of use;
- Natural or organic materials;
- Incorporate wool as much as possible;
- Support small businesses.
Sample Cloth Diaper Stash for EC Backup
Here is an example of the type and number of cloth backups you could have in your stash for each stage of your EC journey: newborn, mobile baby, toddler, and EC graduate. The age ranges are just an approximation, as our babies all progress at their own pace.
Cloth Diaper Backup Stash for Newborn (0-3 months):
- (1) Wool Puddle Pad
- (48) Reusable Cloth Baby Wipes
- (2) Wool Diaper Belts, size newborn
- (12) Cloth-eez Prefold Diapers, Organic, size preemie
- (24) Cloth-eez Prefold Diapers, Organic, size newborn
- (2) Babee Greens Classic Merino Wool Diaper Covers, size newborn
- (2) Babee Greens Classic Merino Wool Diaper Covers, size small
Approximate cost for 0-3 months: $300
If you don't plan to use wool diaper covers, you could go with the gDiapers Newborn Bundle, which comes with 12 size newborn gPants and 6 size small gPants. You could use the gPants with: prefold diapers, disposable compostable inserts, or homemade cloth inserts. Cloth-eez preemie prefolds will fit in newborn gPants and Cloth-eez newborn prefolds will fit in small gPants.
Cloth Diaper Backup Stash for Mobile Baby (3-12 months):
- Flaparaps: (3) shells, (12) small pads, (6) large pads, (3) newborn/small belts, and (3) toddler belts
- (2) gDiapers gPants, size medium
- (6) gDiapers Pouches, size medium
- (12) gDiapers Cloth Inserts or Cloth-eez Prefold Diapers, size small
Approximate cost for 3-12 months: $310
Approximate cost for first year: $610
Cloth Training Pants Backup Stash for Toddler (12-24 months):
- (6) Tiny Trainers, size 12-24M
- (6) Under the Nile Training Pants, size 12-24M
- (4) Wool soakers, shorties, skirties, or longies
Approximate cost for second year: $330
Underwear Stash for EC Graduate (24-36 months):
Approximate cost for third year: $80
Grand total cost for 3 years: $1,020
Of course, there are many ways to create a less expensive cloth diaper stash as backup for elimination communication. This is a top-of-the-line stash, incorporating organic cotton and wool. You could buy some items used or sew some yourself. Many of these cloth diapers can also be resold in buy/sell/trade groups when you are finished with them.
What I like seeing on this price break down is how quickly the cost of cloth backups drops each year. The first year of using cloth as backup for EC may be pricey, but the second year of training pants and wool shorts is much cheaper. And wearing underwear instead of diapers for the third year, saves a bunch of money!
I hope you now feel prepared to create a stash of cloth diapers to use as backup while practicing elimination communication!
If you are still expecting a baby with whom you plan to practice EC, you may want to Create an Amazon Baby Registry and include cloth diapers. The Amazon registry also allows you to add items from other online stores, so you could include specialty elimination communication clothing and supplies from EC Wear, Little Bunny Bear, and Komfi Baby. Be sure to check our EC Coupons page for the latest discounts!
In my next post, I will provide pointers on how to select and pack a diaper bag for elimination communication.
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What type of cloth backup have you been using, or do you plan to use while practicing elimination communication?